Fwd: Canada's needs a housing strategy

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Sat, 18 Dec 1999 01:06:25 -0500

------------forwarded message------------
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 23:52:03 -0500
From: Bob Olsen <bobolsen@interlog.com>
Subject: Canada's needs a housing strategy

   The Canadian government today announced $750 million in
   program spending for the homeless.

   There will be no new housing.  The homeless will still be
   homeless.  But, social service agencies will get access to
   $750 million to make the homeless more comfortable.
                                           Bob Olsen, Toronto

   Canada's needs a national housing strategy
   - not a homelessness strategy.    Michael Shapcott

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 15:13:53
To: mshapcott@chfc.ca
From: mshapcott@chfc.ca (by way of Michael Shapcott <mshapcot@web.net>)
Subject: Where's the housing?

Quick response to the federal homelessness strategy
December 17, 1999

Where's the housing?
To end homelessness, Canada needs more homes

Five federal cabinet ministers and a clutch of MPs delivered a "Christmas
present" to Canada's homeless people in the form of a new "national
homelessness strategy" at a projected cost of $753 million over three years.

The good news: Powerful community-based work right across Canada has forced
the federal government to take action on homelessness.

The bad news: We're got to push much harder before we get a national
housing program that will truly help to end homelessness.

Breaking down the announcement:

Supporting Community Partnership Initiative
$102 million annually for three years	

What the feds say:
"flexible funding for local strategies that other partners would be
encouraged to join in supporting with their own investments and contributions"

What is likely to happen:
A patchwork of one-off local projects which will succeed depending on the
ability of the sponsoring group to line up other funding sources

Expanding programs (Youth Employment Strategy, Urban Aboriginal Strategy,
Shelter Enhancement Initiative)
$57 million annually over three years

What the feds say:
"This funding will help take care of the immediate and short-term needs for
this winter."

What is likely to happen:
More Bandaids, which are desperately needed because the homeless are
bleeding profusely, but no substitute for a national housing program

Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program
$90 million annually over three years

What the feds say:
"This new funding will support the renovation and repair of housing
occupied by low-income people to bring it up to basic health and safety

What is likely to happen:
Good news, but not all $$$s will go to low-income housing.  Changes will
allow abandoned buildings to be fixed up - a plus. Some one-off projects
may be built - if project has other funders.

Properties for housing
$2.5 million over four years

What the feds say:	
"surplus federal properties [will be made] available on an exceptional basis"

What is likely to happen: 	
Very little money, nice to have land, but there's no money to build the

In summary:

The root cause of Canada's homelessness disaster is a lack of affordable
homes. In the heyday of federal housing programs (in the early 1980s), the
federal government was supporting the development of 25,000 new units every
year. By 1993, the federal government had cancelled all new development. In
1996, the federal government announced plans to transfer administration of
remaining federal housing programs to the provinces and territories.

Canada has no national housing strategy. After today's announcement, we
still have no national housing strategy. The homeless may be more
comfortable, but very few of them will be any less homeless.

At the press event, Alfonso Gagliano, the federal housing minister, was
asked about housing. "Be patient," he replied. "This is a first step." He
said that he would meet with his provincial counterparts in the new year.
Leaving a new national housing strategy to an undefined round of
federal-provincial-territorial talks is a recipe for inaction.

This is not a national strategy, but a patchwork response to Canada's
national homelessness disaster and housing crisis. Successful projects will
have to put together elaborate funding packages from various sources.
Therefore, groups will have to spend months or years fundraising instead of
building housing and providing services.

This is the downside of the trend towards "partnerships". Multiple funding
sources place the barrier much higher even for the best projects. Instead
of a single program that delivers the funding, project sponsors will have
to approach of variety of government, private sector and community sources.

Putting additional new money into helping homeless people is welcome, and
will likely lead to a handful of new one-off projects in various parts of
the country. It is a step, but unless there is a massive federal
reinvestment in a national housing program, it cannot be called a step in
the right direction. It is simply a step leading to nowhere in particular.

The One Percent Solution:

Canada's needs a new national housing strategy - not a homelessness
strategy. The key element of a new national housing strategy is a massive
federal reinvestment in housing programs. During the 1980s and early 1990s,
the federal government cut almost $2 billion from federal housing spending,
then cancelled new development entirely in 1993. A growing number of
housing and homeless groups are calling for the One Percent Solution, a
reinvestment of $2 billion. The massive and growing federal surplus allows
for a major reinvestment in housing.

Speak up for housing:

MPs need to get the message that the federal government must take the lead
in developing a new national housing strategy, including a massive federal
reinvestment. The federal Budget in February must include a major
commitment to new housing spending.

Check out the Housing Again web site at http://www.housingagain.web.net in
the Alerts section for more news on today's announcement.

For information, please call Michael Shapcott at 416-366-1711, ext. 224.
E-mail: mshapcot@web.net.


Housing for all

The One Percent Solution - a national
strategy to end homelessness in Canada

Michael Shapcott
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
E-mail - mshapcot@web.net